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Friday, July 20, 2012

Dun Dun Dun... Exam Time

Well, 8 weeks of studying have come down to this: the last weekend before the bar exam. I have 3 days left to finish studying before the first day of the exam next Tuesday. I'm going to probably spend the next two days finalizing my memorization of as much law as possible. Then on Monday, I'm going to try to take it a little easy, just some light review. I will check into my hotel that night and try to relax. Maybe work out a bit to kill nervous energy. The hotel is supposed to have a fitness lounge.

I have had a few freak outs over the past weeks. It's a real roller coaster. One day I feel fine, and the next I am anxious and panicky and have a hard time focusing or sleeping or just being calm. I feel like I could use another month to really feel ready for this exam, but I don't know if it would make a difference.

I wish I could say I feel like I have this in the bag, but I just don't. I don't know how it will go. I feel maybe cautiously optimistic, but I do recognize that smart, dedicated people can and do fail the bar exam for a number of reasons. I have friends who walked out of the February exam having no idea if they passed or failed. I probably won't know either.

My biggest fears are (1) not waking up in time for my exam, and (2) having my computer crap out during the essays portion.

To combat number 1, I've had Mr. E wake me up when he leaves for work for the past two weeks. The first week, I would sometimes get up right away, but usually go back to bed for another couple hours, because it is just too damn difficult to be awake at 6:45:AM, dammit. I'm serious. But this week it's do or die time, so I have actually gotten up with Mr. E. I usually have to sit around for a couple hours to mentally wake up before I can start studying, but I'm getting to the point where I am actually somewhat coherent by 8:AM, which is when the exam will start. I think adrenaline will get me there on game day.

To combat number 2... I don't know, it's up to chance. My MacBook is 3 years old now, and it still seems to be in fine working order, but I have heard personal stories from people who've had their computers die in the middle of the exam. Legibility-wise, I can write for about 5 minutes, and you will maybe be able to read the first half of what I wrote. So we're talking disaster if I have to write for 6 hours. It would probably fail me. So let's hope that doesn't happen.

I am feeling good about the multiple choice, so as long as I can get through day 1, day 2 should be ok, I think.

As far as the essays go, I am worried about getting a question (or several questions!) where I just have no clue what the law is. I did a practice exam earlier this week and the very first essay I opened was that way: I had not a single clue what to write. I hear that happens to people sometimes, and in that case you just have to look at the facts and try to identify what might be a legal issue, and then make up some law to apply. Sometimes people guess right. Anyway, after that crappy practice test, I have been incessantly reading essay answers, trying to familiarize myself with lots of fact patterns in case something similar comes up.

Here's hoping that the past two months were good enough to prepare me.

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Monday, July 9, 2012

Free and Inexpensive Media Online

Thought I'd share a few links to my favorite places to download media online for free (the legal kind of free!) or on the cheap. I make daily or weekly visits to many of these sites for music, books, and video games:

1) Freegal [music]

Freegal is a music download site that works with participating libraries to offer you 3 free music downloads per week via your library account. Unlike most library experiences, however, you get to keep your free tracks for-ev-er.

Three tracks at a time is a slow way to download a full album, sure, but it adds up quickly. I use a recurring reminder on my e-calendar to keep me coming back to the site every Sunday night for my new downloads, and soon enough I have a complete new album without any expense or effort.

I actually also use Mr. E's library card number to get his 3 free songs per week (since he's not interested, oddly enough), so I get my albums twice as fast. It usually takes me 2-3 weeks to get a full album, so if you don't have someone special in your life who has a library card but hates free things, you could count on a free album every month.

Freegal doesn't have every album you might want, but it has many good ones. I keep a running list of the albums I intend to download in a Google Doc. That way I don't have to actively remember my list of greedy desires every week.

I have already downloaded songs and albums from a bunch of great artists, including:

  1. Adele, 
  2. Alice in Chains, 
  3. CAKE, 
  4. Cyndi Lauper, 
  5. Faithless, 
  6. Fiona Apple (incl. her brand new one), 
  7. Imogen Heap, 
  8. Incubus, 
  9. The Lemonheads, 
  10. Madeleine Peyroux, 
  11. Madonna, 
  12. Passion Pit, 
  13. Phoenix, 
  14. Sarah McLachlan, 
  15. The Shins (incl. their new one), 
  16. Zaz, 
  17. 2Cellos, 
  18. and even the damn cast of Glee. 
Look at all those free albums. Currently, I'm working on an album from The Temper Trap (you probably have heard their song Sweet Disposition on 500 Days of Summer).  After that, it will be on to an album by my favorite German indie rock band, Wir Sind Helden. You should get on the Freegal band wagon and fulfill your own list.

2) Overdrive [books]

Overdrive is similar to Freegal except that it's for e-books and audio books, and you DON'T get to keep them for-ev-er.

You use your library card (if your library participates) to download books to your Kindle, Nook, or iPad, or even to your old-fashioned laptop. If it's an audio book, you can sometimes listen to it on your iPod or burn it to a CD, but usually you are forced to use Overdrive's proprietary software.You can select a 7, 14, or 21 day borrowing period.

Even though digital is naturally non-rivalrous due to its intangibility (i.e., my having a copy doesn't keep you from also having a copy -- we could all have copies at the same time without depriving each other of anything, ha ha!), Overdrive artificially simulates the rivalrous nature of tangible books by only lending out however many copies they are allowed to lend for a given book at a time (if I had to guess, I would say they can e-lend as many copies as they have in hard copy, but I don't know). Because of this, you may have to put your book on hold and wait awhile.

I'm currently the 150th person in line for the Game of Thrones series, for instance. That's gonna take awhile to get to me. But you can have 6 books on hold at once and 6 books out at once, so if you find less titillating and popularly-hyped reads to put on your book list, you should be able to keep a nice rotation going.

Unfortunately my reading this summer has largely been spent on bar prep with precious little time to read things that actually enrich my soul rather than destroy it, but after this bar nonsense is over with, I hope to start reading a book a week, and Overdrive and my trusty Kindle shall help me do that.

3) Kindle Daily Deal [books]

If you are on the Kindle bandwagon like me (probably one of the better purchases I have made in recent life), you will want to check out the Kindle Daily Deal on Amazon. They select one book every day to deeply discount down to 2 or 3 bucks.

They are often murder mystery novels, since that seems to be a popular genre, but I was delighted recently to pick up a book on the Donner Party's ordeal, which is something more to my taste. Well, my taste is not so much for the cannibalism, but I have found in recent years that I strongly prefer non-fiction books to fiction books, and I especially like non-fiction books that cause me to question the bounds of humanity.

Like recently I keep reading books about sociopaths and serial killers because I'm trying to understand what makes people do horrible things to other people without seeming to care. (Highly recommended: The Psychopath Test by Jon Ronson [from the guy who wrote Men Who Stare At Goats {but don't judge it poorly for that piece of crap, this book is really engaging}] and Serial Murderers and their Victims by Eric Hickey [textbook, but utterly fascinating psychological perspective].)

Anyway. Cheap books. Everyday. The end.

4) John Vanderslice website [music]

John Vanderslice has been an indie musician for a number of years. He's received some notoriety via NPR's radio podcasts. I once saw him play live in a tiny little garage venue in Salt Lake City called Kilby Court, a place I still think dearly and fondly on from time to time. I have enjoyed his music for quite awhile, but he earned a special place in my heart when I recently learned that you can download several of his full albums for free on his website, and giving value away for free is something that I always respect in an artist. Some of his more popular albums are available for purchase on the site, but the free albums are really worthwhile as well. My iPod practically overflows with Johnny V these days. If you're looking for something new to listen to, or if you're already a fan, be sure to scurry over there a pick up some albums, because: FREE!

5) [games]

GOG stands for Good Old Games, and that's exactly what you can get for cheap: really classic old computer games. If you're like me, you're all nostalgic over the grand old days of 90's adventure gaming, with games like King's Quest, Quest for Glory, Zork, Gobliins, and Gabriel Knight. Classics like these are what I come to GOG for, but they also have some more modern games to choose from. Games sell for ridiculously low prices and are often offered in discount bundles. Plus, they are DRM free, so you can put them on all your home computers (although often the games are not Mac-friendly, unfortunately; they are working on that).

6) Fan Remakes of Sierra Games: Infamous Adventures and ADG Interactive [games]

With blessings of Roberta Williams and Sierra, two companies have made some delightful remakes of a few of the earlier Sierra adventure games that had pretty crappy graphics. By today's standards, I suppose the remakes also have really crappy graphics, but they are on par with the graphics of later games like King's Quest V & VI. These fan remakes are free, include voice packs, and some of them can be played on a Mac now. You can pickup King's Quest I-III and Quest for Glory II from AGD Interactive, and a different version of King's Quest III and Space Quest II from Infamous Adventures. Both sites also produce original games.

7) Humble Indie Bundle [games]

The Humble Indie Bundle packages and sells game bundles by indie developers in a pay-what-you-want pricing scheme, which is a scheme I dearly love. They incentivize paying at least the average going rate by offering a couple extras if you beat the average by even a penny. If you have never tried the Humble Indie Bundle before, I recommend getting in on the next bundle. The latest package (which is unfortunately closed) included the most excellent game LIMBO. (This is a graphically and aesthetically beautiful game, and if you are into physics-based puzzle games, it's a must have.) The bundle prior to that included the games Botanicula and Machinarium, two absolutely gorgeous and artistically / musically awesome puzzle adventure games. Unfortunately, I already had purchased both LIMBO and Machinarium for full price from the Mac App store prior to their placement in the bundles, and I would have gotten a much better deal if I had waited, dagnabit. So the lesson is that they put really good stuff in those bundles, including extras like game soundtracks, so keep your eye out for the next one.

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